Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sunny Cilantro Chicken Chili

Every early fall I become obsessed with making chili. The crisp fall smell coming in over the musty hot summer smells just makes me want something spicy. So why am I talking about chili on a lovely spring day? Well, because it's kinda cold and cloudy out and I'm bored of soup. I want to turn up the heat, maybe mother nature will catch on. Someday I'll post my favorite rainy day, eat-with-a-chunk-of-crusty-bread-instead-of-a-spoon potato bean soup (and I'll need to come up with a shorter name for it), but not today. I need something a little more vibrant, something sunny.

Luckily, I have just the right ingredient for the job - cilantro. I finally got into the garden last week and was able to transplant my seedlings to my outdoor pots. I'm surprised I've even gotten anything to stay alive indoors this year, as my house hasn't gotten much sunlight. 

It's really wonderful towards the end of the summer season, because then I make use of the plethora of tomatoes I have. Between my own raised bed garden, which ended up being overgrown by tomato plants (over half the garden was just a thick jungle of tomatoes, my oldest daughter was in heaven - tomatoes are one her favorite foods) and the tomatoes we got through our CSA, it was a bit out of control. We also had a lot of carrots and celery from our CSA, and with chicken chili it is really a great addition.

Last year, I also received a bounty of peppers from a friend, which really inspired my chili kick. I especially loved the peppers with all of the variations of chicken chili I made. But, again - this year has been cold and the veggies just went in last week. Hopefully it is warm enough and the rain will really help. We're just behind from last year. And to be fair, last year everything went in pretty early - around Andy's birthday mid-April. We were definitely spoiled! 

So, on a not so sunny day, I give you...


Sunny Chicken Chili


You Will Need:
  • Dutch Oven or Slow Cooker 
  • Cutting Board
  • Large Chopping Knife
  • Can Opener
  • Small Strainer
  • 1 Cup Measuring Cup
  • 1/4 Cup Measuring Cup
  • 1/2 Cup Measuring Cup
  • 1 Teaspoon
  • 1 Tablespoon
  • Frying Pan
  • Metal or Wood Spatula
Ingredients:
  • 1 Onion (I wouldn't recommend red onions, but if that's what you got, it really is all good)
  • 3 Tomatoes
  • 1 Stalk Celery (if you like celery or have a bunch to use up - use up to 3 stalks celery)
  • 2 Carrots
  • 1 Can Great Northern Beans (if they are dry, you have to prepare them as directed rinsing the night before, I think canned are fine)
  • 1 Can Navy Beans (see above)
  • 2 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 Cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce (this is not tabasco sauce! If you only have tabasco sauce, add amount indicated in the secret ingredient section)
  • 1/4 Cup White Vinegar 
  • 1 Handful Cilantro + some for garnish
  • 1 Small Lime or 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Secret Ingredients:
  • 1 Pepper of choice (I like red peppers with this one)
  • Cayenne Pepper (I use this almost in substitution of chili powder, taste as you go, up to 2 tablespoons)
  • Paprika (I love paprika, some don't think it makes much difference, go with what you like, up to 1 tablespoon)
  • Oregano (1/2 teaspoon, again, go with your gut :)
  • Cumin (up to 2 tablespoons, I personally would only do about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • Garlic (again, to taste - I'd say a couple tablespoons of minced garlic or 1 tablespoon garlic powder)
  • Tabasco (a few shakes - don't get too out of hand, take it slow :)
  • Red Pepper Flakes (this is for a slow kind of spicy, if you like a bit more depth in your heat, about 1/2 tablespoon)
  • Honey (sounds odd, but when I make my special buffalo wing sauce, this is the key ingredient, just drizzle will do ya!)
  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce (another odd one out, but trust me - you will be using it whenever you do chicken in a frying pan, it just flavors the chicken while keeping it moist, and no Asian flavors - just yummy salty goodness)
Directions:
  1. Chop veggies: tomatoes, carrots, celery and onion - leaving half the onion to the side and cilantro
  2. Add 2 cups chicken stock to slow cooker or dutch oven, turn on low or medium low on stovetop if using dutch oven
  3. If using canned beans, drain and rinse beans (if you don't want to be bothered, skip draining)
  4. Add chopped veggies (leaving out half the onion) and beans to slow cooker or dutch oven
  5. Add hot sauce, vinegar and lime juice
  6. If worried about spiciness, taste and add half of desired spices, you can always add more later, if using red pepper flakes, add now
  7. Drizzle honey and stir thoroughly
  8. Chop chicken breasts in chunks to aid in cooking and shredding
  9. Heat frying pan on medium until warm, add olive oil, once hot enough (try flicking water at the pan, it should sizzle and pop back at ya) add chicken and cook 5 minutes
  10. After 5 minutes of chicken cooking, add remaining onion and the garlic
  11. After the onions and garlic start to sweat add soy sauce and cook chicken thoroughly
  12. Shred chicken in pan (I usually use a metal spatula and just start hacking at it, it's not as hectic as it sounds, lol)
  13. Add chicken, onion and garlic to slow cooker or dutch oven, cover and wait 4-6 hours
  14. Taste, add more spices if wanted. If it's not thick enough combine equal parts flour and cold water (2 tablespoons each) and shake in jar and add to pot
  15. Garnish with cilantro, lime and sour cream
It's hard typing out what you do in the kitchen, especially because everything I make is really go with flow, no way you can really mess up. I know it can be daunting, but if you can find a good base to work from you'll be able to navigate it based on your own preferences. If it ends up too spicy, add 1/4 cup water at a time and thicken with the flour/water mixture to even it out. 

Oh, and if you ask reeeaaallly nicely, I'll post my favorite cornbread recipe next as a bonus post - I'll even leave out *most* of the jabbering :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Win-a-Guy Pie (Derby Pie)

When I was thinking about what recipe to begin with, I was a bit lost. To be honest, I haven't been cooking many amazing meals lately. In fact, last week I made probably the most disgusting meal of my life (penne pasta with shrimp and spinach and a balsamic cream sauce - my execution was poor and the balsamic cream sauce was a wash). I didn't find it disheartening, though. I was just happy to be back in the creative groove of what can be a tedious, rushed and frustrating chore - dinnertime.


I have been cooking and baking here and there, though, for special occasions. A few weeks ago my bestie and I worked on 2 hotdishes for our local community fundraiser - The Hotdish Revolution - and tied ourselves for 1st place with 2 very different dishes. The first was a creamy barbeque pulled pork with cheddar cheese and jalepeno cornbread and the other was a pot roast with mashed potatoes, homemade cream of mushroom covered with a puff pastry. A few weeks before that I stumbled upon an amazing idea - Candied Bacon and added that to my favorite cookie dough cupcakes. So, stay tuned for those amazing recipes.


Despite that, my day to day cooking has been lacking. I've been lazy and unmotivated - I admit it! I've been really uninspired due to the weather lately - my veggie and herb garden is only half done and I only just started it last week due to a cold spring. Also, this year we have changed farms for our weekly CSA veggie box and it's not going to begin until mid-June, which is probably for the best since the season has not produced much yet. It's just been hard to get into cooking this season.


So, I decided to go with my first ever recipe. No, it's probably not a Springtime kind of pie, but it is one of my all time favorite, nostalgic, decadent baking recipes, so I figured it would make a good start. What I call the Win-a-Guy Pie. Why do I call it Win-a-Guy Pie, you ask? Well, a wise old man once said, "if this is how you bake, it won't be long before someone snatches you up and puts a ring on your finger". No, we're not in the 50's anymore (and I'm not sure I would exactly call it "winning", lol), but I have found it to be too true! The base of the recipe is what my mom calls a Derby Pie, but I have added my own flair to make it truly one of a kind. I never like giving away all my secrets, but don't you worry, I will. But, it will be up to you to use your own judgement and really make your own mark.


This very rich, decadent pie, can really be taken anyway you want it -sweet and salty with less chocolate chips and some nutmeg, smooth and chocolaty with more chocolate chips and some good ol' Bourbon, sweet and spicy by adding some ginger with the nutmeg, or plain jane by just using some vanilla extract. Anyway you take it, you will love this pie - and so will your guy!


Win-a-Guy Pie


You will need:
  • 1 Large Mixing Bowl
  • Whisk
  • 1 Cup Measuring Cup
  • 1/2 Cup Measuring Cup (unless you're lazy like me and just go with a 1 or 1/2 cup depending on which is clean :)
  • 1 Pre-made Pie Crust (again, feel free to be lazy and just buy the Pillsbury one, if you are even lazier and can't bring yourself to go to the store, there are plenty of recipes - use your google-fu and try not to stress when they sound finicky)
  • 1 Glass Pie Plate

Ingredients:
  • 3 Eggs (is it considered more or less lazy if I just get them from my girls in the backyard?)
  • 1 and a 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Corn Syrup
  • 1/2 Stick Butter
  • 1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips (I think I guesstimate and use about half the bag - sometimes I use much less and sometimes much more, it is a very rich pie either way!)
  • 1 Cup Chopped Walnuts (yes, I said walnuts, not pecans, this is key, people! Also, see above comment on measuring)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt 

Secret Ingredients:
  • Nutmeg (let's say a tablespoon)
  • Cinnamon (teaspoon to tablespoon, somewhere in between)
  • Ginger (lets say a teaspoon)
  • Vanilla Extract (let's say a teaspoon)
  • Kentucky Bourbon (a couple tablespoons or double it to a 1/4 cup, you decide :)

Directions:
  1. Fold and crimp edges of pie crust into the pie plate
  2. Set oven to 350*
  3. Melt butter for 30 seconds on 50% power
  4. Whisk eggs
  5. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup and butter until smooth, don't worry about small chunks
  6. Sprinkle in salt and any secret ingredients you choose, whisk
  7. Pour mixture into the pie crust
  8. Sprinkle evenly with walnuts and chocolate chips
  9. Bake for at least 45 minutes (if you see the crust getting too dark, add aluminum foil to cover around the edges)
This is truly a fool-proof pie. You just can't go wrong! Let it sit, but serve warm with whipped cream (there are some fun flavored whipped cream recipes out there that work perfectly with this - I suggest checking out these Flavored Whipped Cream recipes for a variety of ways to change things up (the Chai and Bourbon flavored ones jumped out at me, and you could even try the Grand Marnier orange liqueur one for some contrast) and Rachael Ray's Spiced Chocolate Whipped Cream).